Friday 26 October 2012

When You See the Big Picture, You See It

The author's photograph is a key elements of cover design. It needs to convey personality characteristics that are aligned with the biography, content and writing style to help the reader decide whether the book is worth reading (and buying).

I first had my picture taken professionally, when I was twenty-four. I was approached by a "drama instructor" who was convinced I had a career in advertising. All I needed to do was invest in a $100 photo shoot (and drama lessons) and I would be set. I took the bait and visited her photographer. He took seventy-two shots and two weeks later I returned to review the proof pages. He had difficulty finding a "good one," which was a signal that the advertising world was better off without my contributions. I didn't take the drama lessons.

Since then, I have had four corporate photos taken. They are all straight-on head and shoulder portraits with me smiling in front of a "grade school photo" blue background. The uniformity of this style is well-suited for organization charts and i-d badges but lacks the essence of the person. I wanted to avoid that look for my book cover. 

A highlight of my authoring journey has been working with amazing people. Everyone has been a friend or a friend of a friend, which has added trust, connectivity and respect to all activities. I remembered that my friend Shari had asked a friend of hers to take her professional photographs. They are fantastic and captured her warmth, depth and glowing spirit in a way I had never seen before in pictures. I was thrilled when Shari agreed to introduce me to her photographer friend, Marlene.

Fortunately, Marlene agreed to take my photographs and we met at her home for the shoot. I have never enjoyed a photo shoot until now. Marlene's supportive and relaxed personality turned an uncomfortable activity into an enjoyable conversation with someone I felt I had known for a long time. In minutes we were done and I wished we had more time to talk.

I was on a tight timeline because I needed to submit a photograph in  two days to my publisher. Even though Marlene was not feeling well, she sent me the seven best photos within hours. 

I chose my favourite two photos, which conveyed different parts of my personality: the friendly, exuberant guy and the serious, knowledgeable guy. I chose the serious, knowledgeable guy for my cover, which friends and family members also chose. I didn't labour over this decision like others because when you see the big picture, you see it.  


Thursday 18 October 2012

Answer All Questions Before Handing In

Completing questionnaires is not one of my strengths. I find it mind-numbing and challenging to remain focused as I work through the questions. Since this is one of my least favourite activities, I repeatedly count the number of questions remaining, like someone who watches coffee percolate, hoping that it will go faster by doing so. 

I had mixed feelings when I saw an "author's questionnaire" in my inbox. On the positive side, I was excited by seeing "author" and "Phil Buckley" in the same sentence. On the less positive side, I thought of having to work through the questions, repeatedly checking the number remaining.  

I had answered many of the questions in my book proposal, such as "Who are the audiences for my book?", "What are the benefits and features?", "Who are my competitors?", and "In which countries is my book most relevant?". Some, however, were new to me, including "What media contacts do I know personally?", and "What organizations would want to buy my book in bulk?" 

These new questions are opportunities that I need to champion. Perhaps the answers will have the highest yield within my Change with Confidence marketing plan. As most questionnaire instructions state: Answer all questions before handing in.


Friday 12 October 2012

I Am My Own Brand Manager

The highlight of my week was a conference call with my senior publicist and marketing manager at Wiley. We talked about the promotion plan for Change with Confidence. I was keen to share my thoughts but have learnt that when speaking with experts it's best to let them go first and listen really well.

My book is slated for publishing in mid-March and the plan works back from then. We spoke about the press release, promotional copies for media contacts and potential article opportunities. 

Justin, I could use some advice
Although I will get great support from the Wiley team, I know that I am accountable for building awareness of my book and me, the guy who wrote it. I need to be the brand manager of my own brand. This is no surprise because I have heard it many times during my research. What was surprising is that I need to take on this role now. The publicity and marketing stage of my journey has begun and I am already behind. 

Here are my top priorities:

- Design and launch a Change with Confidence web site
- Build my Google+ profile and presence 
- Connect with affiliate publicist teams around the world to gain their support
- Write a series of articles based on the content of my book

The call was as exciting as I thought it would be. Talking about my "platform" and "SEO" (search engine optimization) made me feel like a brand. For Change with Confidence to achieve its potential, I need to become one.


Friday 5 October 2012

Some Things Shouldn't Change

I had a "back to the future" moment this week when I checked into the Sheraton Parsippany in New Jersey, which was a second home for me in the mid-2000s. I asked the front desk clerk if Mary still worked there. The attendant brightened and said, "Yes she does, I love Mary. What a wonderful person. Sometimes I just want to give her a hug to feel better." This response didn't surprise me because I had heard it many times before. 

Mary is in charge of the concierge level lounge that offers breakfast and evening appetizers to guests. Her warmth and dedication is felt as soon as you walk through the door. She gives new guests a detailed tour of the lounge and wows returning ones with her knowledge of their preferences. Mary used to save the best bananas for me and once forbade me from eating one because it was below her standards. She then quickly went to the main kitchen to get me the best one on site. Classic Mary!

I wasn't the only one who was in awe of Mary. Our entire project team sang her praises. She called us "the Canadians" and did everything she could to make us feel at home.  At the close of our assignment, we sent her flowers and some money as a thank you. It didn't seem enough for all she had done for us but she loved our gesture. After being transferred from the local office, I visited her when in the area or occasionally gave her a call. When we spoke she asked about each of "the Canadians" by name, just like family. 

It was great to seeing Mary again, especially in a newly renovated lounge that she was proud off. Although the room had changed, Mary was the same. She even saved two bananas for me each day, just like before. 

I decided to write a letter of appreciation to the hotel's manager stating how important Mary is to her customers. It doesn't seem enough for all she has done for me but I hope she loves my gesture.